- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

A member of the Prince George's County School Board said yesterday that an emergency resolution to restrict spending by Superintendent Iris T. Metts failed by one vote after midnight Thursday.
The proposal, which would forbid Mrs. Metts from signing contracts of more than $5,000 without board approval, was announced to have passed by a 5-3 vote, with one abstention.
But yesterday, Doyle L. Niemann of Mount Rainier, who opposed the proposal, said it was presented as an emergency resolution, which would require two-thirds, or six, of the members to approve.
"It did not obtain the necessary number of votes to pass. The motion should properly have been deemed to have failed," Mr. Niemann wrote to board Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson, of Mitchellville.
Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
"I have no comment," said Vice Chairman Marilynn M. Bland, of Clinton.
"It'll have to be brought up again if it is to pass," Mr. Niemann said, suggesting Mrs. Metts could continue signing contracts under the overall organizational operations of Maryland public schools.
The next scheduled board meeting is Feb. 7.
The resolution was prompted by Mrs. Metts' signing, without the board's approval, of four lease agreements worth $1.9 million for the county's Head Start program.
"No other superintendents before her have entered into contracts without board approval," Mr. Johnson said after the vote. "The state law is very clear that she needs board approval. … We are clarifying because she was not clear about it."
But yesterday, Mr. Niemann said the board is limited to "oversight authority" of approving or disapproving budgets. The board would have to meet every day to approve the hundreds of contracts needed to run the system, he said.
Mrs. Metts has objected strenuously, saying that limiting her authority over contracts would "literally bring the system to a halt."
About 130,000 students are enrolled in Prince George's County Public Schools.
Board members may not have considered the emergency resolution thoroughly enough, Mr. Niemann said.
"It came up on an emergency basis at the tail end of the meeting," Mr. Niemann said. The board meeting began about 6 p.m. Thursday and ended near 2 a.m. Friday.
Member Felicia R. Lasley of District Heights helped move the resolution but abstained from voting on it. Opposing votes came from Mr. Niemann, Catherine Smith of Cheverly, and Bernard Phifer of Hillcrest Heights.
Voting for the resolution were Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Bland, Angia Como of Laurel, James E. Henderson of Seabrook and Robert J. Callahan of Bowie.

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